Raising Boys of Integrity – but first, my mistakes…

Monday, May 13th, 2019

As the days start to warm up (although right now it’s literally snowing outside my window) – Jason and I love to take a brisk walk after dinner. The boys usually ride their bikes or scooters and off we go around the ‘hood. I know it sounds lovely but if I’m fully transparent – we’ve started to wonder why we even try. The boys usually cry because they don’t get a choice in the matter and then they argue with us about their mode of transportation. “Mom, we will just walk with you.” {Um, no honey, ride your bike so that I an talk to dad and also so I don’t have to carry you after about about 2 blocks!} I guess we really do love something about the walks because it never fails that there is some sort of a fight in making it happen.

A couple of weeks ago, we were winding up our walk and I shared some frustrations I was feeling toward Jason. In my heart, I really thought that being honest with him would be helpful. Whether I didn’t choose my words wisely or whether he simply wasn’t in a place to receive them – let me just tell you – it didn’t go well.

Things started to escalate and by the time we walked in the door, I told Jason that I had regretted even bringing it up. He then responded to that in a not-so-kind way and it sent me over. the. edge.

Weyal. I turned around, yelled at him in front of the boys, and told him – he was being an @$%. I marched to the back of the house – trying to get as far away from everyone as possible as the guilt and shame started to set in. I wanted to just be alone but I heard Jason’s footsteps coming down the hall. Did I want to talk to him? Absolutely not. So I told him don’t even come close. {I can be feisty.}

Jason left me alone and I was left wondering what just happened and what I should do. My boys witnessed me yelling at Jason – which isn’t the very end of the world – I don’t want my boys to think that marriage is all Carebears and rainbows. But I knew what I said was wrong and how I reacted was wrong. There would need to be some repair work with each of them.

My shame told me to hide and not come out. Don’t make eye contact and just tuck this far far away. I’m a mistake and a worthless mom and wife.

My heart, on the other hand, told me that we all make mistakes and I’m not the sum total of them. And that even this could be used as a teaching moment for my boys.

I dusted myself off and was able to apologize to Jason for my behavior later that evening. And over the next couple of days, I sat down with each of my boys and asked them how my outburst made them feel. One of my boys cried immediately when I asked him {he might be my sensitive one!} and he said it made him sad. Sadness was a word all three of them expressed. Another common feeling they shared – scared. {Ouch.}

After validating how each of them felt, I talked to them about how much shame I felt after it happened. And how badly I wanted to hide and not talk about it. We then talked about the antidote to shame – intimacy – and what it looks like to be fully known when everything in us just wants to hide. I then genuinely apologized to each of them for making a mistake. This took several conversations over the next week with each of them – it wasn’t quick and easy, let me tell you.

With that said, here are three critical concepts (from the story above) that we can teach our children as we work toward helping prevent them from developing sexual integrity issues –

The first – Talking openly and honestly about feelings and giving affirmation and validation for them – this can’t be overstated. Giving our children space to explore and share their feelings is one of our biggest jobs.

It’s not easy – we hear “I’m frustrated” a lot in our house and I oftentimes want to bark back – “well then, figure it out”. (How is that for validation and affirmation?! Eeks!) I’m working at taking a breath, stopping what I am doing and asking for clarification on the feeling/s and what has prompted them. (Spoiler alert – usually I’m the cause.) It can be exhausting and oftentimes inconvenient. However, giving our children a safe space to talk about how they feel will help them manage their feelings in healthier ways. We use a technique called mirroring from this book that I am happy to discuss in a future blog post – it works really really well.

The second – naming shame and talking about how it affects us and the best way to work through the shame – this is a big one people. Where there is shame – there is acting in. Where there is shame – there is hiding and secrecy. By the time my boys hit 1st to 2nd grade I started to see shame play a role in their lives. We are constantly looking for signs of shame in our boys and then working at helping them name it (if indeed it is what they are feeling). However – we might get even more mileage when we talk about our shame (case in point – story from above) and what we want to do (hide) versus what we need to do (pull it all into the light).

And last – apologizing and seeking forgiveness when we do something wrong. I think humility is a huge part of this journey for our husbands and the quicker we can instill humility in our children – the better. Apologizing and seeking forgiveness can be tricky because for some people, apologizing can cause shame. It’s important for our children to see that making mistakes happens and while it’s painful for all involved – our mistakes can promote empathy and humility and grace.

All three of these habits are critical to help my boys live a life of integrity.

It’s getting real ladies. My boys are getting older and just as I wonder why we even try with going on evening walk/rides; I also wonder – is it possible and even worth trying to raise boys to one day be men of integrity?

The answer is yes – it is worth trying. Prevention on the front end is worth every anxious heart beat, every stomach-ache, every awkward conversation. Will it be perfect? No. Do we need help? Yes. We can’t do this alone. It’s going to take us all, including God.

Dear God – Help. Amen.

xo – Shelley

photo credit


3 thoughts on “Raising Boys of Integrity – but first, my mistakes…

  1. Lisa

    May 14, 2019  |  11:26 pm

    Shelley, this is just such a beautiful post. I know you’re not a perfect parent (none of us are), but I think your boys are so, so blessed to be growing up under your care. Much love to you all from down under (I owe you a better communication than this… and you will get it sometime before long).


  2. Debra

    May 15, 2019  |  07:50 am

    Shelley,

    Thank you for this beautiful post. It was so touching and so moving for me to read. Touching because it was so real. You captured what REAL family life can be like (or at least my real life raising a son with a husband in recovery)….the difficulty that comes from both sides of the marriage-two humans trying to build and maintain and grow in recovery while living life and parenting.

    It’s such a tall order. And that’s WITH the help of my recovery community! It touched me that you were willing to share the many elements that are challenging (finding time to connect, being able to connect when it’s a difficult topic, being able to shoulder my own feelings when a partner can’t be present, the weight of doing it in front of an ever present audience of which I am a steward).

    It was moving because you went further than just sharing the struggle, you shared the part that is the most painful for me…seeing my son impacted by my limits and humaneness while simultaneously feeling like the work before me is too much for me. That dealing with my own emotional wounds and growth and my son’s (and to some extent being at least present for if not a helpmate for parts of my husbands recovery) is too much. That some days I feel like it may break me, and on others I just feel bent by it all.

    I was moved by the tenderness of that you let me see how you come forward and work with your children in those real moments. I picture this post as though I am your neighbor and you pulled back your curtain to let me see your home, heart, and family so that I can better move forward accepting mine. Thank you.


  3. Tracy Binder

    May 17, 2019  |  05:15 pm

    Thank you Shelley for sharing. It’s so real and allows us all to feel okay when we are not okay.


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